For Mom, With Love (plus a FREE downloadable cookbook! ‚̧)

I’m on Year 2¬Ĺ of what is, arguably, one of the toughest roles I’ve EVER had, i.e. being Mommy.

Some days it goes really well and I feel like I GOT THIS FAM, I’m the best mama everrr. Naps are taken on time, bowls of food are wiped clean (walang tira! yay!),¬†toys are put away in their proper places.

BB and Me aka Flower-Head. He made it at school for Mother’s Day (aww)

On other days, I want to curl up in a ball and growl at everyone to leave me alone. Bucketfuls of guilt over everything — from being a working mom to not giving my son more leafy greens at the table.

Guess what I realized, mama? We don’t have to enjoy¬†every moment of motherhood. We don’t have to be the Insta-perfect mama 100% of the time.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to have those ups and downs. It’s okay to need alone time one minute, then need the MAXIMUM amount of hugs the next. We don’t have to sweat the small stuff. More often than not,¬†we¬†are our own worst critics.

Remember, taking time out to de-stress is important, not just for yourself, but for your little ones too.¬†ūüĎĆ

If one of your favorite things to do to wind down is whipping up something in the kitchen, you’re in luck. ShopBack teamed up with RedMart to release its first cookbook, “For Mum, With Love,” which you can download here for free.¬†

It has 18 tried-and-tested recipes with varying levels of difficulty, from delicious meals like Sardines and Pineapples in Tangy and Spicy Coconut Sauce (sardinas with a twist!) to feel-good classic desserts like Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Singaporean coconutty favorite Ondeh Ondeh. 

So download away! Here’s to good food and to us “good enough” mamas!¬†ūüėė

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No Order Here

I read this essay on Scary Mommy and I find myself guilty, a little bit. The thing with writing a mommy blog is it has the tendency of making it seem like you have the mommy shit together, and the household runs like clockwork, floors are always polished, children sweet-smelling and well-fed.

Well, I just wanted to clarify that that’s certainly not the case, and it’s not my intention to make it seem so. There are dirty clothes in the hamper, work stuff I brought home and hadn’t looked at, unnecessary screaming in the playroom. We are all in the same boat, mama. Chin up.

That Time of the Year

I truly love December. It’s like the equivalent of the year’s weekend — everyone seems more relaxed. This year we put up a small tree, even if we’re flying back to the Philippines for Christmas. BB was taken by it the first few days it was up. He referred to it as “Mommy’s plant.”

I also find myself looking back on the past twelve months this time of the year. If January feels like a fresh start (“Let’s draw up a list of New Year resolutions that look suspiciously similar to last year’s list!”), December is more for reflection.

2017 was, for me, a year of the same, a year of difference, and a year of in between.¬†I am grateful — to reach the (almost) year-end with a growing, talkative and rowdy toddler, a roof over my head, Hubby next to me maximizing our new-ish Netflix subscription, and the prospect of¬†lechon¬†and our traditional baked chicken in a week’s time,¬†shared with family, intact.

What have I done this year? How have I moved forward, how have I changed? What will I remember most about 2017? Drop me a note in the comments!

You May Be A Victim of Abuse Without Your Knowledge

Here’s the thing:¬†you might be a victim of abuse without knowing it.

No, I’m not talking about physical violence, but something a little less obvious, more insidious — and just as worse.

Have you ever heard of the term financial abuse?

(While I‚Äôve not experienced it myself, it‚Äôs a topic that’s close to my heart not only because I work in the finance industry, but because I’ve seen so many women victimised by it, either knowingly or unknowingly. If this post helps at least one woman out there recognize her situation for what it is, then I would’ve achieved what I set out to write.)

What is financial abuse?

First things first. What do I mean by “financial abuse”? WomensLaw.org, a US website¬†launched to provide legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence, defines it like this:

Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse).

Purple Purse, a US national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through financial empowerment services for survivors, has the following definition:

Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their spouse or partner from working or accessing a bank, credit card or transportation. They might tightly monitor and restrict their partner’s spending. Victims of financial abuse live a controlled life where they have been purposely put into a position of dependence, making it hard for the victim to break free.

The message is consistent: if you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling¬†manipulated¬†or controlled¬†through financial means or when you feel your partner may be limiting your financial independence,¬†you may be a victim of financial abuse.

What are the signs of financial abuse?

According to refuge.org.uk, the following may be signs you’re experiencing financial abuse:

Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
  • Prevent you from going to college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every peso you spend?
  • Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
  • Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
  • Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
  • Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
  • Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
  • Insist on control of all financial matters?
  • Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name (but does not contribute to them)?
  • Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
  • Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?

If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.

Even in a country like the Philippines, which was the only Asian country to have made it (at one time) to the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the world’s 10 most gender-equal countries, I suspect the above situations are far too common.

Female participation in the Philippine labor force is much lower at just a little over 50%, compared to 70% in the UK and 67% in the US. This indicates that it’s highly likely that Filipina women are under-utilized in the labor market, and may suffer from inferior work opportunities compared to men, less stable work, or unpaid work burdens¬†(think stay-at-home moms that depend on a single income). Overall, this makes them more vulnerable to financial abuse.

Okay, so I might be a victim of financial abuse. What do I do?

I know it’s very difficult, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom counting on your spouse’s income, to be truly financially independent. I have read personal stories of women feeling absolutely crippled by being given less money for basic necessities by their partner if they complain about their situation. Your partner may even threaten to leave you, which especially if you have kids, can be devastating.

But — and here’s my attempt at a glimmer of hope — there are some things you can do.

  • Start working on your financial literacy.¬†I know (trust me,¬†I know)¬†finance is not the most exciting subject in the world. However, it pays to know at least the basics — how to take stock of your finances, how to make a simple budget, the best ways to save whatever you can, how to prioritize your expenses — for you to be able to properly assess your specific situation. There are plenty of free resources online. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas launched¬†Peso Sense, a nationwide Financial Literacy campaign “designed to encourage improving productive expenditure, improve the capacity for saving and promote entrepreneurship among Filipino beneficiaries of international or domestic remittances.” The Peso Sense website,¬†http://pesosense.com/, contains free e-Learning modules with topics like Basic Finance, Managing Your Money, and a primer on the stock market.
  • Ensure you know your own ATM PIN codes, online banking passwords, and similar login information. You can always change them if you feel they have been compromised.
  • Have copies of important financial documents such as your bank statements, credit card information, etc.¬†Know which assets are in your / your spouse’s name (bank accounts, credit cards, land titles, etc.).
  • Save whatever you can — as Tesco used to put it, “Every Little Helps.” Put away the cash in a location only you know.
  • Look for a part-time job or sideline, if possible. If you blog, look for a way to monetize it. Maybe you can start a small online Facebook shop selling on consignment, or set up a makeshift¬†sari-sari¬†store at home.
  • Up-skill for free. There are plenty of free resources online if you wish to take courses to improve your skills: think Coursera, edX, or Open2Study, among others.
  • Reach out to trusted friends, family, or even your local church.¬†Especially if you feel you’re a victim of abuse, as they may be able to help you and your family get back on your feet.
  • Financial abuse may be an indicator of more widespread abuse.¬†You can report / discuss your situation using¬†Violence Against Women (VAW) Hotlines on this link.

To paraphrase refuge.org.uk, remember:¬†it’s your money, your life.

I’m interested to hear if you know of anyone with this experience, of if you have other suggestions of how to cope. Feel free to comment below.

 

Image credit: Fabian Blank

To My BB

In the middle of moving house (again!), nonstop work stuff, your mama trying to study for a certification exam, and just general busy-ness one can’t seem to get rid off, you’re growing big, our little one. Not so Squishy anymore. So I’m hereby christening you BB, a.k.a. Big Boy.

Over the past month you’ve somehow developed the ability to string together short phrases:¬†“Ayoko ‘yan ayoko ‘yan”¬†(“I don’t like I don’t like”, reacting to your chicken¬†lugaw),¬†“BB sakay¬†car!” (“BB ride car” — thereafter proceeding to declare you want to ride all modes of transportation and then some. Your list includes random ones like “trailer truck,” “street sweeper,” and “cement mixer” thanks to your Usborne ‘Things That Go’ book), “Hi FRIENDS!!!” (to the kids / “BATA” who’re swimming in the baby pool at the condo — who promptly ignore your sweet face haha), making “MmMMmm” yum-yum sounds whenever you see pictures of food or see ones that you like (a short list that has Jollibee sweet spaghetti at the top), and so on. Your daddy and I honestly cannot keep track of New Things BB Does anymore.

I am floored by all the words you manage to remember. You parrot everything we say when you’re in the mood, and you sometimes say random lines from your favorite books at spot-on times (“OH YES” you once said to me after I asked you if you wanted to go out, while nodding — it cracked me up).

You now recognize some cartoon characters — we’ve relaxed the TV rule a little a bit so you’ve seen part of the first Cars movie (“Mc-KEEN!” “MATER!”) and the Minions. You get bored of the TV after a while though. (Yay.)

But boy, do you love your JAMS. You have a funny little dance when we put your favorite YouTube music videos on the speaker (belly thrust forward and back, jiggle shoulders up and down). Wheels on the Bus is still your #1 song, but you’re starting to branch out to the Hokey Pokey and Head Shoulders Knees & Toes. You know all the words to Johnny Johnny Yes Papa (down to your breathy HA HA HA at the end), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and have your own version of¬†Bahay Kubo¬†and¬†Ako Ay May Lobo (thanks to yaya Aca).

Your mama and daddy try to keep your days (at least the weekends!) and your heart full, BB. We took you to the Palawan Pirate Ship down in Sentosa one weekend and you loved the free sprinklers — though you fell victim to a cold right after. ūüė¶

You had your third-ever boat ride to attend your Ninang‘s wedding in Bohol. You had the chance to play with your “BUCKET!” and get sand all over your bum. You met your “TITO BAYAN!” and now promptly remember him every time you see someone dark (LOL).

I’m sorry our little playgroup experiment didn’t work out, BB. Mama now knows that she shouldn’t rush you into being a big boy, that all she has to do is to fill your days with hugs and kisses and silly dances and joy — that the rest will happen in its own good time.

On DIY Haircuts

Squishy started bawling the second he sensed we were about to give him a haircut at EC House Kids. His hair had been bothering me for weeks — it was growing past his ears,¬†getting in his eyes. With him starting playgroup soon we thought it best to bite the bullet and get the haircut over with.

Squishy hates haircuts. He hates the buzz of the hair clippers. The last time he had it cut, it was in the Philippines, in Cuts 4 Tots at Glorietta. He was so stressed out he sweated buckets — they didn’t need to spritz his hair with water. He also¬†cried his little heart out. It was agonizing¬†to watch.

So we backed out of EC House, calmed him down with a few rounds of singing “Wheels on the Bus” and headed home. The Hubby thought we could do it ourselves with the help of YouTube instructional videos. (To be fair, the Hubby did learn to swim breast stroke via YouTube, and this kid learned how to drive. For Hubby, it¬†was good enough to get him¬†a beginner’s diving license!)

I watched a few “how to cut your toddler’s hair” videos and marveled at all the kids who looked chill at the sight and sound of clippers/scissors.¬†I found one video that¬†looked promising and, duly inspired, I set off to find the sharpest scissors at home and the baby comb.

Squishy’s “Before” photo. Readying his hair with a brush.

(As an aside, you may be wondering why Squishy’s always in an undershirt a.k.a.¬†sando.¬†I promise you, if you too were dressing a genetically sweaty toddler in hot and humid Singapore, this would be your at-home outfit of choice.)

Taking a cue from YouTube we played a Disney Cars 3 trailer on loop to keep him occupied. I combed his hair down following what I thought/hoped was his natural part.

Squishy is¬†so sensitive to haircuts he kept swatting my hand away and moving side to side. I ended up just trying to trim the longish bits but generally following the shape of his previous cut. It was effing challenging to cut a straight line AND not snip a chunk out of my kid’s ear.

Stay STILL… please

I intend to fix it while he’s sleeping and he kind of looks like Moe¬†from The Three Stooges but at least, AT LEAST, the hair is out of his eyes.

I remember my mom, for a brief time in our childhood, did our haircuts herself by putting a¬†mangkok¬†(bowl) on our head and cutting a straight fringe along the rim of the bowl. So you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My mom got asked “O, where’s your boy?” ALL the time

Weekend Blah

As I was looking for photos for this post I realize I haven’t been taking them lately. What I have are mostly videos — of Squishy playing with his shape sorter, “reading” his books, loving his “colors” (what he calls his crayons).

He’s grown active these past few months and, when it comes to capturing memories, taking photos didn’t seem to cut it anymore. All I have are random shots of things whenever I remembered to bring my camera. Here’s one of him attempting to climb up Cinderella’s dress at Toys R’ Us because he thought it was a slide:

At this age, toddlers understand way more than they can say. Squishy amazes me by how much he can absorb like a big-ass sponge. Out of the blue the other day he said “internet” when he saw me showing Hubby a Facebook page and none of us were sure where he heard the word, much less what it meant.

He has a more nuanced sense of his favorite books now — these days he demands The Paper Bag Princess (“Pin-sess!”), Love You Forever, and Cool Cars (…which I bought for a dollar in the atrium of Lucky Plaza. Now I know where to get his books — and our Mang Tomas fix — next!).

Squishy can communicate in short phrases: “Hugas” (Wash, in Filipino) after he poops, “Hugas! Punas!” (Wash! Wipe!) when he knows we’re about to start his pre-bedtime ritual, “Pess, baba” (Press, go down) when he’s had enough of food, and he wants us to release him from his high chair’s seatbelt and carry him. Here, he’s giving us his “Stinky” face like one of the babies in his Baby Faces book.

I looked at a folder in my drive labeled “Squishy – 3rd month onwards” where I’ve dumped all our photos since early 2016. It’s a mess — I keep telling myself to get my shit together and organize it one weekend, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. It has everything — Squishy’s weekly and monthly celebrations, trips we made last year, we-did-nothing quiet weekend moments, first birthday and baptism photos. Thousands of photos. In one folder. Eep! I will add it to the list “Things I’ll Organize/Do One Weekend…Someday” together with Squishy’s blank baby book.

Anyway, it’s amazing to compare my grubby little toddler in the present to the chub-tub baby he was this time last year. It’s a worn clich√© but yes Virginia, they do grow up fast.

Squishy will be attending a formal playgroup soon. All his afternoon mates at the condo playground are gone, plucked off one by one as they all attend playgroup / childcare sessions of their own. It’ll be good for his social skills, he’ll get to interact with other kids his age, we think. (Probably the same thing all the other parents in the condo are thinking, which is kind of ironic in a way.)

I imagine if Squishy were in the Philippines he’d have fellow grubby little toddlers to play with outdoors. Maybe.